The Associated Press unsurprisingly has clouded the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court with misleading coverage. The April 8th story by Erica Werner sets the spin in motion with this headline “Gorsuch confirmation rolls Supreme Court to the Right.”
In the lede of the story Werner states “the Senate confirmed Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch… restoring a rightward tilt that could last years.” The key point that should be noted here is that the new justice is restoring a rightward tilt that already existed before the death of Antonin Scalia and not a new development as the headline suggests.
In her recap of the events leading up to his confirmation Werner says that Republicans held open Scalia’s seat despite President Obama nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. She however made a small but important omission: that Garland would have tilted the Supreme Court to the left. This is an important point to omit in a story about the ideological tilt of the court.
Werner also didn’t deign to inform her readers that the GOP controlled Senate, in refusing to confirm Garland, were using tactics first proposed by Democrats. Vice President Joe Biden, as Senator, proposed that a president should not nominate a Supreme Court justice in the final year of their term. Instead they should let the voters have their say first then revisit the vacancy. By omitting the Biden Rule from the equation Werner makes it appear Republicans were engaging in unprecedented behavior.
Werner engages in even more egregious white washing of this whole series of events in her next paragraph. She wrote “McConnell, R, KY immediately responded, as expected, by leading his Republicans in an unilateral rules change to lower the vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees from 60 to a simple majority.” “Unilateral” really? This change was hardly unilateral as Democrats, under Majority Leader Reid, had nuked the filibuster or lower court nominees years earlier. Furthermore the fact that Democrats were filibustering a nominee who wasn’t accused of ethics violations was a first in history, making the rules change far from unilateral.
While far from being a fake news story this piece sure does explain why journalism has lost the trust of the American people. Misleading stories like this lead to an electorate unaware of and misinformed on the issues. A story like this could be expected from the opinion arms of Fox News or MSNBC but not from a supposedly neutral news service. Do better AP.